Tom Arnold's star turn in "Carpool" is enough to explain why this comedy opened without benefit of advance screenings.
Wide-eyed and mirthlessly peppy, Arnold soon wears out his welcome as a bumbling would-be bank robber who commandeers a group of young hostages. The children and Arnold compete madly for the honor of being most adorable person in the hijacked minivan. But it's a contest nobody wins.
David Paymer, looking understandably chagrined, is the film's main asset as its straight man, the harried Dad.
"All you have to do is drive them to school," the ad exec's wife tells him as the film begins, delivering one of the film's rare funny lines. "Fifteen, 20 minutes, tops. I'm not asking you to raise them as your own."
Once the car pool is hijacked, the music blares overbearingly, and the story heads for romp-worthy sets like a shopping mall, where the van proves it can barrel up a flight of stairs.
But if you suppose that the van's various exploits don't amount to much of a plot, you're right. So the film also creates chances for both the hijacker and the ad man to rediscover the importance of being a parent and learn how to have fun.
Rhea Perlman has a few enjoyable moments in the throwaway role of a meter maid chasing the runaways.
'Carpool' Starring Tom Arnold, David Paymer
Directed by Arthur Hiller
Released by Warner Bros.
Rated PG (profanity, brief nudity) Sun score:
Pub Date: 8/27/96